“Critical” Success – by Jeremy Stevens
I live right outside of Music City, Nashville, Tennessee. As my fellow Middle Tennessee residents will attest, we are fed country music at every turn. This morning, I read a review of a hit Country Music song performed by an immensely popular artist, and the critic said the song made him want to “barf in [his] mouth.” I know, the artistic expression is strong with this one. But, this one line that I originally saw on a Wikipedia page made me think, although not just about what the critic said, but rather about what it means to be successful and what it means to be someone who criticizes success.
I know that in the game of the Internet, I’m losing because I’m reacting emotionally. So I must be mad. Bro. But, to paraphrase Dr. Phil McGraw, words are a powerful thing, and they mean something when we use them. Furthermore, it cheapens words when we exaggerate to this degree. Eventually “barf in [his] mouth” literally becomes “Eh, I could take it or leave it” in the mind of the writer as well as the reader. Even so, shouldn’t we question the taste of a critic who goes around barfing at a product that millions of people like? Wouldn’t this be particularly true when music is something that the critic is supposed to know quite a bit about?
For the sake of this discussion, let’s talk about success within the parameters of commercial success. Let’s quantify success and say that in today’s market, if a million people like what you’re doing enough to go out and buy it, you’re a wild success by commercial standards. Of earth’s 7 billion residents, 6,999,000,000 of those can hate your guts and say terrible things about you, but if the remaining million subscribe to your YouTube Channel, you’re quitting that job at Starbucks, waking up at noon every day and making prank videos all night. If you can sell a $5 newspaper, music album, or website subscription to that tiny fraction of people, it’s the same story. This is the secret to the Kardashian’s success, just on a different scale. Do you think it bothers them that 6 billion people are put off by them? No, they probably secretly revel in it. They know that the remaining billion are willing to buy every, single thing they’re selling.
Obviously this particular “review” that I referred to employs a wild exaggeration meant to express displeasure. So was he really going to barf in his mouth as his words stated? Or was he simply trying to garner attention for himself and his website? By my estimation, there is no difference between this statement and a twelve-year old going to Twitter and insulting Adele’s appearance. Neither is a critique, it’s just simply the new critical normal that we are becoming accustomed to in the age of the Internet. But, it’s not just the insult and the lack of decency in an alleged “critique” like the one in question, what about the lack of journalism/professionalism going on while using words such as those? I ask myself who I would rather be, the person winning awards and selling records/books (whatever), or the guy writing that it makes him want to barf in his mouth. The answer is pretty clear; I’d rather produce than try to eek out a professional existence trying to climb up the backs of the producers of the world.
At the time of writing this, the song in question is number 3 on the Billboard Country Music charts, and has sold hundreds of thousands of downloads. Meanwhile, a quick Google search reveals that there are “13 people talking” about the critic’s associated Facebook page and website.
So, I guess Taylor was right after all when she sang that the “Haters Gonna Hate.” But don’t think that because people are critical, you can’t achieve success. Even if almost all of the people are critical, there’s still a whole world of people out there to sell yourself and/or your product to. Finally, remember to choose your words carefully, because they do mean something.